By Martin Galvin
Sitting in the gallery of the Ballymurphy Massacre Inquest courtroom, you see two battles being waged. There is the legal battle for truth by victims’ families. There is also a battle of wills wherein the British Crown seems intent on grinding down families who dare fight for legacy truth by a strategy termed “deny, delay and die”.
British tactics seem obvious. Deny the truth, until the truth becomes undeniable. Delay legacy inquests, ombudsman reports or any legal path to justice, until no further delays are possible. Wait as survivors, eyewitnesses or close family members die and maybe make others lose heart. In cases with fewer victims, the death of the family member awarded legal aid might even halt family representation and become a British legal triumph.
For Ballymurphy the denials began 47 years ago, when the British denied that killing a priest, a grandmother and nine others had been criminal, and blamed the dead to justify massacre. Delays began when new inquests were ordered in November 2011, including 24 preliminary hearings, the pretext veto for Arlene Foster blocking inquest funding, and insults about “innocent victims.”
How many parents, spouses, and relatives will not live to see if loved ones are exonerated? How many witnesses will die before giving testimony?
“Deny, delay and die” means even the British military does not believe Karen Bradley’s claims that crown force killings “were not crimes”.
If their legacy killings were justified, the British would want to get to court and prevail, the sooner the better. The British Ministry of Defence must have seen reports made at the time of the Ballymurphy massacre. If they believed the accounts crafted to justify these killings, presumably, they would want their day in court and vindication for their troopers.
“Deny, delay and die” for Ballymurphy did not stop with the new inquest. Families who, but for the massacre, would never have set foot in a courtroom, must prepare each day, often to face what seem like deliberate delays caused by MoD stalling.
Ballymurphy exemplifies what Terence MacSwiney said nearly a century ago: “It is not those who inflict the most but those who can endure the most, who will conquer.” Ballymurphy endured having loved ones massacred and then defamed. They endure every British delay and every death of those who did not live to see the new inquest.
By enduring they will conquer by getting justice or proving that Britain cannot give legacy justice even when 11 British army victims include a priest and a grandmother.